Driving is a skill, and difficult

As we pulled away from the lights on Highway 41 - one of those three-lane dual carriageways that is just a normal road in the USA - a young motorcyclist accelerated past us, receding quickly into the distance.

As we pulled away from the lights on Highway 41 - one of those three-lane dual carriageways that is just a normal road in the USA - a young motorcyclist accelerated past us, receding quickly into the distance.

A mile or so later we caught him up. At first we thought it was something that had fallen off a lorry - part of a tree, maybe, blackly blocking the centre lane. But it was the remains of the bike.

Just beyond lay the lad who had been riding it. He still had his helmet on, but there was a pool of dark liquid. I couldn't see where it came from.

He was not dead. His arms were moving. Already he was protected by strategically parked vehicles, and at least two people were making phone calls. But everyone hung back from him, afraid, perhaps, of what they might find if they moved closer.

They really, really didn't want to look.

Beyond him stood a car with considerable damage to its rear end, but it was impossible to say exactly what had happened.

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The boy had certainly been exceeding the speed limit the last time we saw him. It would be easy to blame him. In America, hospitals call all motorcyclists “organ donors”.

But there are some sloppy motorists around too. Lane-changing is erratic. Talking on mobile phones while driving is normal, and the right to do so is fiercely defended.

I don't mean to attack American drivers: bad drivers are everywhere. So what can be done?

In England, the knee-jerk reaction would be to lower the speed limit, but as in most similar cases, this would be pointless.

The limit where the accident happened is already low: 45 or 50 mph for a wide, straight road - a speed that might be said by some to induce dangerous complacency.

Maybe someone had pulled out in front of the rider. Maybe no-one was thinking bike. Maybe someone had been trying to change a CD or light a cigarette and had swerved just a little.

There is only one way to stop accidents like this - so why don't we campaign for it instead of hanging back and not looking?

The key is for everyone to recognise that driving and bike-riding are difficult skills, and we need to give them our full attention. Anything else is just Russian roulette.


The tightly knit group of people who supervise the roads of Norwich and Norfolk would love the island of Captiva, in south-west Florida.

There is only one road through it, and it doesn't go anywhere.

The maximum speed limit is 30mph, no overtaking is permitted, and there is no parking on it. There are loads of cyclists and pedestrians, all of whom get priority, especially on a “ped xing” which, in case you were wondering… No, of course you weren't.

At one point the speed limit is 19mph.

Oh, yes it is. Don't ask me why: presumably 20 would be excessive and 18 just too slow.

Why would the Norfolk highways gurus love Captiva? The weather, for one thing. But mainly because they would feel on familiar territory. Like Norwich, it is out on a limb.

There is a huge amount of traffic, all on the one main road, and all it can do, eventually, is turn round and come back.

It's the perfect spot for a congestion charge. There's absolutely no escape. If only Norwich could be like this. Maybe one day, with global warming…

I thought about sending the highways people in Norfolk a postcard, but in the end decided to make do with the strikingly apposite message which I saw on a tee shirt in Naples, just down the coast: “The weather is here. Wish you were beautiful.”


A friend who is a bit of a naturalist once mentioned to me that adders were being reintroduced into a certain area - I don't want to be more specific in case I frighten readers of a nervous disposition.

This struck me at the time as a bizarre idea, on a par with introducing terrorist cells into Sheringham. Adders are poisonous, and tend to multiply. They can kill people.

What next? I mused. Reintroduce wolves into Scotland? And lo and behold, someone thought that was a good idea, too.

But perhaps we all have a little bit of a death wish. I spent part of last week walking along waterways on a Florida island, looking for alligators. I probably came within a few feet of one or two deadly snakes at the same time.

In the end I did see a small alligator, but it was in an even more comatose state than I was.

So I am reconsidering the adder idea. And how about the occasional alligator in the Broads? It might not do any harm. The only thing that worries me is that they look like giant newts, and we know where that sort of thing can lead.

On Captiva Island you can't build on land occupied by a tortoise. No, really. They're called gopher tortoises. You're also supposed to help them across the road. I'm not making this up. Coming soon to a road near you.

They'll probably call it traffic calming.


St Edmund's Church, Caistor St Edmund, is mysteriously situated in the nearby Roman town and not in the village.

Which is why I saw mourners at a recent funeral making their way gingerly along the busy road that joins the two.

Like many country roads in Norfolk, there is no footpath, and at places not even a verge. So there was considerable risk of a further funeral in the near future.

Isn't it time we put some effort into creating room for pedestrians on roads like this?

I suspect that the reason we don't is because all new footpaths have to be paved, fenced and wheelchair-friendly.

There are some nice paths, like the one between Great Hautbois and Coltishall, but surely if a few feet of short grass can save lives, it is foolish to put off providing safe passage for thousands simply because we can't afford to do it for absolutely everybody.